In December 2019 I went to my GP for help. I had begun my second stint in the Freedom Programme run by Julian House and felt at a complete loss about how this was still happening to me. Years of my life lost to the whim of a bully. Over the months that followed, she mobilised, contacting domestic abuse agencies, mental health services, filling in forms and writing letters for court.
When Covid-19 stopped Freedom meetings, I continued to be supported by a domestic abuse worker from Southside and the mental health service by phone and received high intensity CBT for trauma from the NHS online. By April 2020, newspaper headlines exclaimed: Domestic abuse killings ‘more than double’ amid Covid-19 lockdown (The Guardian, 15 April 2020). It had only been three weeks.
My perpetrator no longer lives with me but he is always there. At every handover with my children, on every device, at school, at work, at home he is there with messages, remarks and cold shoulders designed to belittle and undermine me because he can’t use his hands to suffocate me anymore. When the radio announced another woman’s death over breakfast, my 10 year old said: ‘I know what Daddy does to you is domestic abuse as well’.
It took a month into lockdown for him to threaten me and for the first time I chose not to stand for it. We enter the second lockdown still going through court proceedings. He countered all my claims, accusing me of lying and abusing him instead. ‘They all do that’ said my domestic abuse supporter. To date, after over a dozen divorce hearings over 7 years, no Judge has yet believed me over him.
Unlike my English perpetrator, I have a Muslim name that tumbles awkwardly out of Judge’s mouth. I speak English like a native though it is my second language. I am a well educated professional white skinned woman with a good job, live in a house I own and volunteer. Yet I sometimes cannot afford food. Before lockdown I took leftovers of buffet lunches from work meetings home for my kid’s packed lunches but there are no buffets anymore. Ever present underneath my smiling zoom call face are worries about bills, court hearings where I have to represent myself because legal representation costs two months salary and my children who are also bullied but I can’t comfort because they were ordered to be taken away from me for part of every week by Magistrates who did not believe what the consequences of that would be for them, or me.